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Iconic LGBTQ+ venues in London are under threat of closure

Several iconic LGBTQ+ venues in London are under threat of closure

Rumours are spreading that The Admiral Duncan, Kings Arms, and Retro Bar may not reopen due to the coronavirus pandemic

The future of several iconic LGBTQ+ venues in London is unclear as they have been forced to close due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The Admiral Duncan, the site of a homophobic nail-bombing in 1999 that killed three people and injured 70 others, has remained shut since the introduction of lockdown, along with the Kings Arms, and Retro Bar near The Strand.

Staff are “negotiating redundancy” with Stonegate Pubs, the owner of the three venues, according to Pink News, as the UK government ends the furlough scheme and replaces it with the less generous Job Support Scheme.

Rumours began to circulate on Wednesday October 28 that the venues were staring down the barrel of permanent closure. On Twitter, one user wrote: “It looks like my favourite bar in London the Kings Arms will not survive the pandemic. Along with Retro and the Admiral Duncan. I met all my queer friends at the Kings Arms. I met my first kinky leather friend there too. I am so sad to hear this.”

Another said: “Stonegate owns Admiral Duncan, Comptons, Retro, Village, Rupert St, Halfway to Heaven and the Kings Arms. London basically won't have a gay district anymore if they go under,” while another lamented that “staff and customers alike are devastated. If this is true are there any actual plans to re-open these Iconic gay venues?”

Stongate said that the sites would remain closed, but were unclear when, if at all, they would reopen.“Like many businesses across the capital, the introduction of the 10pm curfew and subsequent further local tiered restrictions have had a significant impact on thousands of businesses, as well as further reducing footfall in town and city centres and undermining consumer confidence,” Stongate spokesperson told Pink News.

The firm added: “The combination of these factors and the subsequent impact on sales and volumes means that we are having to rebase our business accordingly, whilst the restrictions remain. The myriad of restrictions placed on pubs and bars has meant it is not possible to reopen these businesses at the current time and they will remain closed until restrictions are eased”.

London’s night Czar, Amy Lamé, whose remit is to keep the capital safe, vibrant, and diverse at night, said in a statement: “I have spoken with Stonegate Pubs and they have reassured me that they remain committed to providing LGBTQ+ venues and that the Admiral Duncan, Retro Bar and the Kings Arms are not permanently closed.”

Lamé also levelled criticism at the 10pm curfew, which she says should be immediately scrapped, as well as the lack of financial support for businesses. “The government’s insufficient support package is putting our night-time venues and jobs at serious risk – particularly much-loved LGBTQ+ venues who heavily rely on trade after 10pm,” she said.

Lamé added: “The government must urgently provide more financial support for businesses if we are to avoid losing these precious venues.”

Read our piece here examining what the future of partying might look like in a post-pandemic world.